Words by Sassy Ross
Toni ‘Bella’ Blair is nothing like the characters she portrays in her comedy skits on RETV’s Bella’s Bizarre World and on her eponymous YouTube channel. Articulate and thoughtful, confident yet somewhat shy, she chooses her words carefully, a stark contrast to her ‘crazy fairy’ alter ego known as Poonchie, one of her most popular creations. Poonchie is outspoken, facety, and says whatever pops into her head. She is also unapologetic in her use of Jamaican Patois. Toni uses her native vernacular intermittently, during moments when she grows comfortable enough to set aside her fears about finding the right words. A creative person who prefers writing to speaking publicly, Toni says that her brain moves rather fast and is often difficult to deal with when she’s talking. When she is able to keep up with her thoughts and to forget about being ‘proper,’ Toni Blair is hilarious, and when she gets on a roll, she is absolutely addictive. While she may not be as brazen as Poonchie, the two do share something in common: they both go after what they want.
For as long as she can remember Toni has dreamed of being a performer. “From I know myself, from I could remember myself, I dreamed of going up on a stage and receiving a really good response from the audience.” Toni has been wowing crowds since she was a child, winning her first prize for performing at the tender age of four. Singing, acting, dancing, writing – you name the art and Toni has done it. She plays no less than three instruments, including sax, flute and steel pan. At Lannaman’s Preparatory School, her involvement in an array of extracurricular activities, from choir to swim team to badminton, garnered her the nickname ‘nuff girl.’ Toni didn’t mind; she was too busy having fun.
She is an unashamed overachiever who embraces all sides of her creative being. While her comedy skills are getting a lot of attention of late, her first love, she reveals, is and has always been singing. Toni has been quietly pursuing a recording career, doing background vocals for Queen Ifrica, Toni Rebel, Christopher Martin, and Duane Stevenson, among others. She has since given up being a backup singer to focus on her own music. Her song, “Jigsaw Lover,” received lots of airplay in Portugal, the home of the song’s producer, Eddie Ferrer. True to her adventurous spirit and her passion for always trying new and different things, “Jigsaw Lover” is a house music track.
“If I come across an idea that I like,” says Toni, “then I try it. It doesn’t really matter if they say that it’s for white people or Africans alone or Europeans. I still try it.” She is currently working on an EP with hopes of releasing a single this summer. She dubs her style ‘neo-reggae’ mixed with elements of soul and pop.
Toni’s music and comedic influences are vast and diverse, from Beyoncé to Eryka Badu, Eddie Murphy to Oliver Samuels. Still, her biggest influence in everything that she does is her mother, who has supported her every step of the way, particularly in her decision to build a career around the arts.
“I don’t ever want to do a 9-5,” she remembers telling her mother when she was still a student at the University of the West Indies, Mona. To prove her point Toni got tattoos. While we won’t divulge the number or location of her tattoos, they include the phrase, “Rocks and Roses,” a tribute to her deceased father, Rockilane, and her mother, Rosalie; the Xhosa proverb, “I am because you are;” and a control panel with the rewind, fast-forward, pause, play, and shuffle buttons. There is purposely not a stop button, symbolic of Toni’s control not only of her music, but also, of her destiny.
With a second season of Bella’s Bizzare World in the works, and a new video posted to YouTube every Friday, we ask Toni how she keeps things fresh. “I use Irish Spring,” she jokes. “Actually, I just go about my everyday life trying to observe everything I see. Every day I try to find the fun out of life and put it in my videos.”
Toni ‘Bella’ Blair is a creative force of nature. What she wants is to make her audience feel good and to make millions in the process. She is on a roll, and there is no stopping her now.